Good news for Njala University

The 183 years old (1827-2010) University of Sierra Leone is about to have an exceptional face lift through collaborative efforts by members of the diaspora (USA) and their universities.

Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States of America H. E. Bockarie K. Stevens on March 15, 2010, hosted a delegation from Ohio State University led by the University’s Veterinary Preventive Medicine Department.

Prof. and Chair William J. A. Saville, Executive Director William D. Hueston, Global Initiative for Food System Leadership, University of Minnesota and Assistant Prof. of Clinicals Fernando Silveira, Department of Veterinary. Preventive Medicine, Ohio State University were also present.

The meeting was organized by the Sierra Leone Club of Columbus Ohio (SLCCO).

The delegation was headed by the club’s President Abass M. Bangura and Ohio APC Chapter Director of fundraising and Recruiting, Ahmed Kanu. Also representing the S.L. embassy were Deputy Ambassador H. E. Alhaji Ibrahim Conteh and First Secretary Mr. Saspo Ibrahim Sankoh.

The SLCCO’s President, Abass M. Bangura thanked Ambassador Bockarie K. Stevens for gracing the meeting, and immensely thanked the Ohio State University delegation for taking time out and leaving their busy schedules to come to Washington, D.C. to brief the Ambassador. He updated him on the progress of the project which started in 2006.

The university had invited former President Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabba, in 2006 but he sent his Vice President Solomon Berewa who paid an official visit at Ohio State University. During the rebel war (1991-2001), the rebels plundered the university beyond recognition and the concentration has been on resuscitating agriculture for which the university is well known.

At present, the two colleges have no advanced laboratories. Bangura stressed the club’s need to solicit the support of the ambassador which is crucial for the success of the project. The former Ambassador H. E. Sulaiman Tejan-Jalloh visited Ohio State University (OSU) during his tenure in the United States.

On behalf of the university, the Chairman of the School of Veterinary and Preventive Medicine has again sent an official invitation to the nation’s president
Dr. Ernest B. Koroma to visit the school in 2010. The invitation has yet to be responded to by the head of state.

Ahmed Kanu thanked Dr. William J.A. Saville and his colleagues. He further expressed gratitude to Ambassador Stevens for giving both the SLCCO and the OSU team the opportunity to brief him on the progress of the project. He stated that the project is a dual purpose development in Sierra Leone’s collaboration in developing Njala.

He added that the club’s president Ahmed Bangura, Dr. Fernando Silveira and himself visited Sierra Leone for a two week feasibility study. They went to Njala University and the Makeni research laboratory. They were also able to meet and discuss the project with the Minister of Mineral Resources and Political Affairs, Alhaji Alpha Sahid Kanu, the Minister of Agriculture Hon. Dr. Sesay and the Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Zainab Bangura. They were all extremely happy and appreciative of their efforts and the project.

The collaboration between Ohio State and Njala University will lead to student exchange programs in the future. He further mentioned that they are currently working hard at soliciting funding to make these dreams possible. Kanu concluded by thanking the President of Ohio State University Dr. Gordon Gee, who is supportive of Global initiatives for giving his blessings to this important project and prayed that the efforts of all those involved would not go in vain.

Also, the Commonwealth of Virginia (USA)’s George Mason University is about to take the lead in its proposed nationwide five campuses extensions. In a slow but determined way, the Sierra Leone Club of Columbus Ohio (SLCCO) is on its way to inject life into the 46 year old Njala University, the nation’s second largest University campus. The universities of Minnesota and Illinois have been the longest serving sister universities of Njala as has been the 183 years affiliation between London’s Durham University and the university system (USL) as a whole.

The SLCCO members have been working very hard to add Ohio State University on the list of sister universities to Sierra Leone colleges, a position which has been occupied by London’s Durham University, Minnesota and Illinois universities for quite a long time.

As well, the SLCCO is partnering with Ohio State University to establish a Veterinary Department. If successful, the Njala University will be the first and only University in the African continent to be in the fore front in modern science to be able to inseminate animals (Goats and Sheep). This process will enable a single goat or sheep to produce a minimum of fifty or more offspring per year.

Prof. Silveira mentioned that Sierra Leone’s agriculture can compete with any developed nation. The livestock- goats, sheep and cows has a potential to be as competitive as any other country . He reiterated that some students at Ohio State University Veterinary Department have chosen Njala University out of a list of many African universities presented to them. Dr. Silveira and a team of students will depart from the United States in July 2010, for a few weeks study at Njala University during which the SLCCO will donate insemination equipments to be used during the visit. After a thorough examination of the Njala facility and talking to Professor Saidu Kanu and Dr. Abdul Rahman Sesay, the University’s liaison official of the project, Dr. Silveira stated that there are immense opportunities from which both universities will benefit.

Further, Dr. Silviera narrated that the SLCCO has dedicated members who keep OSU interested in undertaking this project in Sierra Leone.

The SLCCO members demonstrated an ideological approach -starting small and gathering momentum is the best way to ensure sustainability of the ambitious and robust program. In that regard, OSU has expressed its support of the program in the initial stage and looks forward to moving the project to the next level.

Dr. Silveira added that he identified the goat project that ran into problems pertaining to transportation from Kenya to Sierra Leone sponsored by a British agency. However, the problem can be solved by implementing animal insemination techniques that would enable training both Njala and Ohio State students to accomplish their respective goals.

The Deputy Ambassador Alhaji Ibrahim Conteh who had also visited OSU thanked the delegates for choosing Sierra Leone which badly needs assistance after the destruction done by the rebels during the rebel war that destabilized the health, educational and the entire social fabric of the nation.

"Therefore, such a program is excellent for our educational institution that would once more set Njala University and Sierra Leone as an advance scientific model for Africa."

Dr. William D. Hueston who represented the University of Minnesota stated that both Universities had enjoyed a very pleasant relationship through the years. The Rebels destruction of the University was very sad. And that the University of Minnesota and the Department of Veterinary and Medicine would like to see the project move forward.

Professor William J. A. Saville of the OSU asked about infrastructures in existence because veterinary equipments are expensive

The Ambassador in his contribution thanked both The Ohio State University delegates and the Sierra Leone Club of Columbus Ohio (SLCCO), for their exemplary dedication. The club is a pace setter worth emulating by similar organizations, he contended.

In answering to Dr. William Saville’s question, Ambassador Stevens stated that the rebels destroyed most of Njala University. As a result, there are almost no infrastructures that could be utilized by the project. The President Dr. Ernest B. Koroma made the University a high priority to become operational again at the earliest possible time by making bi-monthly inspection visits. It is now operational, but it needs to be more equipped. Thus, the collaboration project to improve agriculture and the proposed animal insemination is the most ideal help both the college and the nation would need that can significantly benefit the people.

The Ambassador concluded that the kind of development the country expects is to have local nurses and medical technicians trained to assist in all areas of the medical profession. They will be sent to the provinces where they can in turn train others to work in villages and other local communities.

Photo, from left to right: Abass M. Bangura, Deputy Amb. H.E. Alj. Ibrahim Conteh, Mr. Ahmed Kanu, Dr. Fernando Silveira, Dr. William J.A. Saville, Ambassador H.E.Bockarie K. Stevens and Dr. William D. Heuston.